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Chris A

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About Chris A

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  • Birthday July 23

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  1. Comparing Lang in M to Ministry of Fear, I see the same type of style in his approach to lighting and mise-en-scene. It is amazing how he can work with the cameraman to get rich, dark blacks without making the scene underexposed. The entire effect makes the photography look more "silky" in a way. What is different about Ministry is that it has a shot structure and editing pattern that is much more economical than M. The odd angles are there and the camera isolates the characters well. There is great use of positive and negative space for structure and lines or starkness, respectively.
  2. Watched The Glass Key and Laura. Watching Lang's Ministry of Fear now. I have to say, I like the visuals so much more. Both Key and Laura had some of the visuals that helps to define noir, but Ministry of Fear just looks...different. I liken it to how Citizen Kane looked different from other contemporary films of the time. In Key and Laura, I found the cinematography to be adept and skillful, but the lighting to be less exaggerated and the camera work to be less varied...a lot of MS or LS. Lang parses up his space in more discreet chunks, more variation from LS to CU. The tonal range
  3. These are dark tales of a sinister world, where in my opinion (and that of several "popular" film critics - David Thomson is at the top of my list), the stories are told with a visual style that reinforces the dark cynical world they inhabit. I like this part of your reply the most. Very well said.
  4. I agree that Mann has the mood, imagery, and story that is needed for noir. I am just playing devil's advocate here...at what point does noir become overused. That is not to mean that Mann's films don't have an awesomeness about them that no one else can do, but (and I am just throwing this out there), when does noir lose its significance. I could see someone looking at a movie with a dark tone (Psycho, Gone Girl, Snatch) and say, "Hey, that's noir!" Should it be used so widely? (I am seriously wondering, not a rhetorical question). I use Mann only because he seems to have carved out
  5. So, I noticed that Thief (1981) directed by Michael Mann is coming up on our viewing list in July. Seeing this prompted me to watch Collateral (2004) and think about Manhunter (1986), Miami Vice (2006) and Heat (1995), all MIchael Mann films. While Mann's name has been invoked within the discussion of film noir in numerous critical writings, I was wondering what people thought. Do the Mann films mentioned above seem to fit with the concept of film noir as we have discussed thus far, or do you think he is better defined as a director or "crime movies," not necessarily film noir? The reas
  6. Mildred Pierce is one of those films that has more in common with noir through its themes and looks than in some of the characterizations we have seen in some of the previous films. While the film does start with a murder, then a lengthy flashback, the run back up to the present contains the most noir in the daughter's turn to the "dark side," so to speak. There is a wonderful use of shadows and light when Mildred discovers something about her daughter (I won't spoil it here). Many people have written about the thematic and some of the lighting influences of noir already. Getting to the
  7. In both movies, Lang is using a minimalist approach to put the viewer on edge. In M the courtyard is barren, and the child's voice is sharp with a harsh echo. In Ministry of Fear the clock is the only thing to look at. Instead of a disquieting sound, we have only the slight tick of the clock and the eerie music. The fact that the clock is surrounding by so much negative space and is backed by harsh shadows from the directional light creates an even more unsettling vibe. When the camera tracks back we get to see just how big the clock is -- it dominates the wall. Time is a very importa
  8. I agree with you that cynicism and fatalism are huge players in film noir. Life is not fair, and the protagonist cannot afford to be naive. Many of the times it is about the blunt realization that you don't get the brass ring. The world is far more powerful than many of the characters and any attempt to contest that is often met with failure (the gravest sense is death) or in the best case maybe bringing a small bit of justice to those who deserve it. I don't know if I would agree that the protagonist is doomed by his own flaws. That pushes the protagonist into a realm of a tragic her
  9. Many people here have made excellent comments about the disillusionment permeating American culture in the wake of WWII. That cannot be denied. Often films and their storytelling are used to reflect and comment on social events or movements. Vietnam war films are one example, as are other war films to come after the Persian Gulf War, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Terror is a big issue now, yet another example of how movies are influenced by events. One could probably even make the case about the resurgence of superhero films as a way to redefine or return to an idealistic sense of justice (even
  10. As I have said, I haven't seen all of Murder, My Sweet yet, so I will have to wait to see all of what Marlowe does. I do sense, at this point, a bit of misanthropy in Sam Spade -- will it be to the extent as Marlowe? I will have to see. Spade seems just as distrusting of O'Shaughnessy as Marlowe is of Grayle. He even tells her so much to her face -- we didn't believe you, we believed your $200; oh, you're good, the way you get that tremble in your throat when you say 'help me, Mr. Spade'; the way he has to defend his innocence to the police, the implied affair with his late partner's wife.
  11. Agreed on both counts -- I would also include the behavior is to serve a sort of ethical code. Usually, it came down to valuing men over women and ultimately finding a sort of justice in which the guilty parties were punished int he end. Dudley Smith is killed, Brigid O'Shaughnessy is arrested at the end of Maltese Falcon, Cagney gets his in White Heat, etc. I have not seen all of Murder, My Sweet yet, but I would be surprised if the same doesn't follow through. The moral code must be upheld. In the brutal reality of the film noir world, the ends justify the means.
  12. As it is common in films noir, women are not to be trusted. Whether it is Mary Astor's Brigid O'Shaughnessy in The Maltese Falcon or Ann Grayle, the investigators cannot afford to be fooled by a woman's charm. He locks the door and stands over her waiting for the moment to grab her wrists and turn her purse upside-down. The PI must treat the client like a suspect, especially if it is a woman. Much of this comes from an internal code. Marlowe is looking out for himself, yet another change in the PI character. He is implicated (through an attempted payoff) and interested in the jade a
  13. The panning camera movement allows the viewer to "discover" the setting and forces them to focus attention on the details -- perhaps similar to the way the detective first experienced the room when he entered. It is a lot to take in. Seveal people here have mentioned the significance of clocks and masks -- so I will not repeat that here. The room itself is fastidiously arranged, almost like a museum. The fact that some items are kept behind glass goes even further to show Lydecker's materialism. The clock, masks, and the glass "relic" get the most attention as the camera now "catches-
  14. In that case Lantier stands out from the cynicism around him. True, there is no dramatic irony to the tragedies around the characters, but everyone seems to be angling for something, except (as you said) Lantier. Roubaud and Severine do represent the extreme, and Severine's seductiveness plays on Lantier's good nature (he is really trying to not become his ancestors but feels trapped by them -- thus the mournfulness you mentioned before). Outside of Lantier the world is more cynical -- even his engineer friend talks about multiple affairs and how he views a woman's responsibility. I would
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